The Snowden affair is reviving Cold War politics

American suspicions of Russia have reignited in wake of the whistleblower's flight

Related Topics

"Operation Prism: the search for Snowden”. This whole affair is playing out like this summer’s blockbuster. Imagine scenes that flit between the Pentagon, the muggy exterior of a Hong Kong hotel then onto the tarmac where a charter flight is bound for Moscow. Cut to an anxious Wikileaks steward pacing nervously as she attempts to usher Snowden to safety; then pan back to a furious Washington official banging the table as the US extradition efforts come to nothing.

The story of Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old that had a lucrative job, glamorous girlfriend and stable life but decided to part with all of it has become almost as fascinating as his disclosures on the National Security Association. He has become our man of the hour: a 21st century anti-hero whose belief in the greater good is realised by actions deemed so illegal that he may never live to see an ordinary day in his whistle blown world. He has divided people and politicians into plucky heroes and pantomime villains. But it is for America to decide how it ends.

Here in Britain, our Foreign Secretary has tried to calm a bewildered public insisting it “fanciful” to suggest that Britain’s listening post GCHQ would work with the America to circumvent law. Then another of Mr Snowden’s leaks drop and, lo and behold, they need not be fanciful at all. The documents entitled “Mastering the Internet” already suggests GCHQ are scooping vast amounts of online and telephone traffic without any form of public acknowledgement or debate. One of the training slides in the presentation of MIT says it all: “you are in an enviable position – have fun and make the most of it.”

The Snowden affair is reviving Cold War politics. It is re-igniting America’s suspicions of Russia and intensifying anger towards China. Now Germany is looking at Britain and a new annex European suspicion is brewing.

Politics, technology, fact and fiction have irreversibly enmeshed – and the real story, that your government may have built deep databases replete with your personal lives, is getting lost in the noise.

It’s time for some realism. President Obama needs to dial down the hysteria. It is only by draining this soap opera of its drama that the US can sensibly claw back the initiative.

So here’s a few suggestions how: stop turning into Snowden into Bradley Manning. Drop the extradition warrants and stop sabre-rattling with Russia and China. Scrap the life-or-death significance attached to the data leak. What it has divulged is more important than how we got here.

Seize this moment to try something different. Invite Snowden to the White House and have the debate you have promised: in our new digital world, how much privacy must be compromised for the sake of state security? Let Snowden debate that directly with the Obama administration. Broadcast it on Google Hangout in full view of everyone – friends and followers, spooks and enemies. Allow the administration to explain why Prism keeps the public without encroaching on privacy and let Snowden argue the counter view. Then let the public decide.

Finally, welcome the new digital democracy: one where we ultimately choose whether or not to participate with the full understanding that our role in today’s cyber world, with all the conveniences that brings, also spells an end to old-world anonymity.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower